Category: News

“Transatlantic Talks: Reflections for Europe with French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin

On 21 September 2021, The Bridge Tank and the France-Amériques Circle inaugurated the “Transatlantic Talks”. The objective of these meetings is to bring together decision-makers around a personality in a closed format, and aim to feed into proposals ahead of the French Presidency of the European Union.

This first meeting gathered around Jean-Pierre Raffarin some fifteen political personalities, former ministers, parliamentarians, industrialists, senior civil servants and representatives of civil society.

During this meeting following the “Chatham House Rule”, after several ideas launched by Mr Raffarin, the participants exchanged analyses and proposals on the following themes: 

  • EU-China-US relations and their growing role in various domestic policies
  • Internal relations within the European Union
  • The issue of European strategic autonomy, including data autonomy
  • Multilateral cooperation and cooperation with Germany in Africa and democratisation in Africa
  • The question of a European defence and its financing
  • Energy and environmental issues in the face of ecological destruction
  • The modernisation of democracies
  • The risks of European deconstruction and solutions

The Bridge Tank and the France-Amériques Circle plan to organise a next session of the “Transatlantic Talks” around a new political figure.  

The Bridge Tank participates the 2021 edition of the Summit of Minds

The 2021 edition of the Summit of Minds forum took place at Chamonix, from the 17 – 19th of September. This year, the Summit was focused on two main ideas: key macro issues and wellness and wellbeing, with a particular spotlight on natural capital (nature as a productive asset). In a context where the climate crisis is becoming a more and more central concern initiating many high-level discussions, the Summit of Minds gathered prominent political, economic, scientific, cultural, and business figures from all over the world, including the Armenian president Armen Sarkissian, to debate these key topics.

The Bridge Tank’s president, Joël Ruet, intervened on the panel: ‘Energy Transition (2) – How to Invest in it? dedicated to the current trend of transition towards net zero carbon emissions, its subsequent opportunities, and risks for businesses. Led by Nik Gowing, Managing Partner of Thinking the Unthinkable, UK, the discussion was structured around three essential questions: 

  1. Where is the ‘smart’ money going?
  2. Is the current ESG excitement sustainable?
  3. What assets run the risk of becoming stranded?

During his intervention, Joël Ruet elaborated on the evolution fo classes of assets for energy transition finance, highlighting the diverse risk factors involved, from profitability dispersion to a lack of cohesion in some national transitions, going through unstabilised hydrogen ecosystems across the world. Joël Ruet also highlighted the importance of differentiating megatrends from mega-ambition, stating that there is no one-size-fits-all energy which could alone resolve current climate issues.

Other panelists included: Martin Fraenkel, Vice Chairman of S&P Global, UK, Eoin Murray, Head of Investments of Federated Hermes International, UK, Franklin Servan-Shreiber, Co-Founder & Chairman of Transmutex, Switzerland, with the special appearance of Mafalda Duarte, CEO of Climate Investment Funds, USA.

Our board member, Pranjal Sharma, was also present during the Summit. He intervened on two panels: ‘AI & Democracy – Do We Have Anything to Fear?’ and ‘Tech – How Far Will Innovation Go?’

During the forum, Joël Ruet also notably exchanged with Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Energy Transitions Commission, UK on how the COP26 could transform systems of negotiation for future COPS to come, instigating climate change action within the public finance sectors at regional, national and international levels.

Watch the sessions on our youtube channel: 

When bad controversies drive out the good ones: rehabilitating scientific controversy

At a time when Covid variants are multiplying, what is known genetically about this virus, from the processes of its emergence, to the role of virology in the analysis of its current evolution, to the genetic origins of its transformation into a pandemic, as well as the hypothesis of the possible role of humans and virological laboratories in its rise? What are the hypotheses supported by facts and debated by scientists, the controversies based on scientific protocols?

From the emergence of a pathogenic virus to the pandemic and variants: virology’s point of view

To shed light on these questions, this dossier presents our exchanges with Sterghios Moschos, researcher, virologist, with Gabriel Gras, former virology researcher and biosafety expert, and with Professor Jacques Cohen, physician and scientist, professor of immunology.

Sterghios Moschos introduces the panorama of the scientifically debated theses, Gabriel Gras tackles the questions linked to the origins of the virus and the functioning of the biological security laboratories and finally Jacques Cohen tackles the questions linked, starting from the virus, to the emergence of the disease and then to its transformation into a pandemic, in order to draw some lessons on a better coordination between disciplines, between science and the public authorities.

Finally, in a current situation where the International Conference for the Conservation of Nature is being held, we open the question of the relationship between humanity and nature.

When bad controversies drive out the good: rehabilitating scientific controversy

When a new epidemic erupts into the world, virology and epidemiology are initially blind to the DNA of the virus, its capacity to spread and contaminate, as well as its origins. Eventually, these scientific fields become more astute, able to see more clearly the DNA of the virus, its family of possible reservoirs and hosts, becoming potentially clairvoyant later on its capability to spread, transform as well as its origins, resulting eventually in the creation of a vaccine.

However, science takes time and a certain protocol, during which hypothesises need to be raised and de-bunked, or confirmed, fully or partially. This is a classic process of science in the making, well established since modern science developed, well understood by the epistemology of sciences including Gaston Bachelard and others; in this context, “scientific controversy” helps unearthing the truth from gathering, accumulation and minute interpretation of facts.

In the post-media age, however, politicised as it is, scientific controversies often escape the preserve of science, leak or get leaked by the media, and can even be intentionally diffused as propaganda by all sides or state/philanthropy/media machines. The current pandemic most likely has not escaped this trap.  

To this, time may still clarify the debate, but an interesting tool is provided through “Mapping” controversies (MC). As defined by Wikipedia: MC is an academic course taught in science studies, stemming from the writings of the French sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. MC focuses exclusively on the controversies surrounding scientific knowledge rather than the established scientific facts or outcomes. This “mapping” helps sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists get insights not into scientific knowledge per se, but rather into the process of gaining knowledge. MC sheds light on those intermediate stages corresponding to the actual research process whilst pinpointing the connections between scientific work and other types of activities.”

“Mapping of Controversies” goes against political controversy, and controversy in the right sense ought to be re-appropriated by those it belongs to by sheer design of science: the scientists.

To read more on this topic, Joël Ruet, President of The Bridge Tank, has published an article in french on the website La Tribune : Coronavirus _ un analyseur de la complexité des relations hommes-animaux _

The Bridge Tank also wrote a note on scientific controversies and a literature review: The Bridge Tank COVID19 – A note on scientific controversies and a Literature review

Read the transcript of each interview here: Verbatim – Interview Sterghios Moschos_FINAL; Verbatim – Interview Jacques Cohen_FINAL; verbatim – Interview Gabriel Gras_FINAL

Sustainable Energy transition trajectories in large countries

By Baudouin Becker, Antoine Goutaland, Xieshu Wang,  Joël Ruet, Laure Elise Wargnier and Malaurie Le Bail.

The ecological emergency has caused a sharp pressure on policy makers to concentrate their efforts on elaborating public policies to organize the passage from the existing fossil fuels based system, that is unsustainable, to another system, whose contours are unknown in details for the time being, but whose ambition is to be durable. Unlike previous energy transitions that were achieved through industrial investments, the decarbonization of national economies is directly led and orchestrated by public authorities through incentives, constraints and policies. The presented documents are methodologies that aim at assessing the ability of governments to coordinate key actors and systems in order to achieve their climate goals and to identify the structural characteristics of the countries’ ecosystems.

 These studies identify trajectories, that we define as the coordination of variables that allow a system to remain balanced while being in motion. A systemic understanding of these trajectories is proposed, including both major responses of public policies to climate issues and the possible integration of the new technologies within the existing system, including an analysis of industrial systems and their capacity (or disability) to meet these challenges.

 In order to understand energy transitions across sectors, we have developed a detailed and replicable methodology that fully integrates the role and potential impact of actors (political and industrial). This has enabled us to understand energy transitions in an original way, freeing us from siloed macroeconomic studies and overly specific energy studies that do not allow us to understand the energy stakes as a whole.

In the following documents, you will find this methodology applied to over 20 economies.

The full report : Energy trajectories in main markets

Specific focus : Energy trajectories in main markets

The making of Hydrogen – Definition and acceleration of a sector

By Joël Ruet, Baudouin Becker, Antoine Goutaland and Xieshu Wang.

Hydrogen is a subject in trend and announcements of breakthrough hydrogen technologies have been multiplying in the last couple months. Indeed, it seems hydrogen, as an energy vector similar to electricity, has imposed itself in most government’s eyes as an indispensable tool in order to transition to climate neutral economies by the end of 2050. Indeed, a number of executive bodies have published hydrogen national strategies in the last 15 months, among which notably the EU, the US, France, the Uk, Germany, and many others (even if mostly Europeans so far).  

            Hydrogen is not a new molecule and has been known and used for decades. Currently, it is mostly utilized as an industrial composite for the production of ammonia, of steel or for refining oil. However, in the context of the energy transition, it is mostly considered useful as an energy vector that would complement electricity. Indeed, in hard-to-abate sectors, meaning sectors where electricity isn’t a solution or an unsatisfactory one, hydrogen appears as a viable replacement to fossil fuels, for example in long-distance transport or shipping where oil is hard to substitute.  

These two documents provide an overview of hydrogen developments and increasing importance in the energy transition as well as a prospective analysis of its prospects of evolution towards 2030. It notably identifies an unexpectedly faster pace of development of the molecule. Country that are mostly likely or unlikely to decarbonize their current hydrogen production are also identified. Finally, the documents provide a specific lens on hydrogen use for mobility and on hydrogen ecosystems.

 

Main report : Main Report – The making of Hydrogen – Definition and acceleration of a sector over 2017-2021

Executive summary : Executive Summary – The making of Hydrogen – Definition and acceleration of a sector over 2017-2021

The current state of the hydrogen ecosystems in the world

By Florian Dommergues and Joël Ruet

Retrospectively, 2021 might well prove to be the breakthrough year for the ecological transition towards climate neutral societies. With the election of Joe Biden, who reinstated the United States in the Paris Agreement hours after coming into office, the ecological transition has gained new momentum.
By the end of 2020, more than 110 countries had pledged to reach climate neutrality by the mid-century, including China by 2060. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has induced an important economic crisis which in response has required the launch of large-scale recovery plans by OECD countries, such as Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue plan, France’s €100 billion recovery plan (of which €30 billion are dedicated to the ecological transition), or the EU’s €1800 billion plan, of which one third is dedicated to the European Green Deal to reach climate neutrality. These plans have been seen as a chance to accelerate further the ecological transition and to invest in the technologies and energies of tomorrow.

In this context, one energy in particular gained particular drive and importance : hydrogen (H2). The aim of this policy brief is therefore to provide an overarching view of the current state of affairs of the hydrogen ecosystem and a review of the existing literature.

We argue that three trends required special attention and allow to have a structured analysis of the field.
First, hydrogen must be approached around the industrial problematics that compose the ecosystems that are emerging around the molecule. One of the decisive dynamic being the interaction between industrial players (both new upcoming players and old industrial fossil fuel players, such as gas utilities) and government public policies which will shape the regulatory environment.
Second, hydrogen in the years to come, will most probably become an object of trade between countries with abundant RES and those with scarcer ones in the years to come. If we analyse these dynamics that notably take the form of bilateral partnerships between states, we argue that for a long time to come hydrogen exports will not take the magnitude nor the forms of standardized transactions, such as oil or natural gas. Indeed, hydrogen cannot be understood as a uniformed commodity, as we stated in a previous policy brief (in french).
Third, the place of green hydrogen in the energy transition must be considered lucidly, what we call a « philosophy of transition ». Hydrogen, if an essential tool of the energy transition, will remain second whenever electrification is possible. It must be considered first and foremost in order to decarbonize industrial uses of hydrogen, then in hard-to-abate sectors and finally as a tool for system integration (providing grid stability and allowing sector coupling).

You can find the full brief here : The current state of play of the hydrogen ecosystems in the world

EU strategic interests vis-à-vis China: our article published in the National Defence Review and published by China Today

As the strategy of European autonomy in the face of Chinese power gathers traction, The Bridge Tank published an issue brief in both the National Defense Review and China Today. An indication that rigorous discussion for a tight negotiation remains possible?

After two years of work, The Bridge Tank has positioned itself in the calibration of the balance of power between the EU and China, in particular by publishing last March issue briefs (For a balance of power – what is at stake around the pre-agreement of principle on investment, co-signed by several former ministers and French ambassadors; and Sino-Western Conflict, analysis and proposals, the latter written by General Eric de la Maisonneuve)

The analyses developed highlight the fact that the two protagonists in their power relations are out of step both in time and space.

The Bridge Tank, active in both Western and Chinese debates, points out the double error of analysis that these two protagonists are making of each other as well as proposals for firm discussions on strategic resources.

This approach was taken up in March 2021 in the “Revue Défense Nationale”, a French strategic and defense reference magazine, an intervention that we then popularized in a high-circulation Chinese-language media, China Today. This bilingual article explicitly analyses the European interests generated by this new partnership with China in conjunction with political, ecological and economic issues.

A degrading context

On Tuesday 4 May 2021, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis announced the suspension of a landmark EU-China investment agreement. This agreement, which has been under construction for seven years, was concluded on 30 December 2020, but was finally cancelled due to the deteriorating political and business climate between the parties.

What role can the EU play?

This agreement, although met with contempt by some European leaders and the international press, offers crucial benefits for the EU’s economic development. In the context of a new Cold War between China and the United States and the health crisis, Europe wants “to cooperate with China is also to cooperate with the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), the world’s third largest economic bloc, and thus gain access to the ASEAN countries”.

European sovereignty based on an environmental thread

Since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, the EU has shown itself to be a pioneer in the fight against global warming and for environmental rights. China, one of the world’s largest emitters of CO2 with 28% of global emissions, has declared its goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 2060.

 

By working with China, this agreement would allow for a more open and direct dialogue on urban innovations, such as smart cities, developed for the benefit of future generations.

In the face of the rise of China and the United States in the digital field, it is clear that Europe needs to catch up to counter the power game in order to guarantee its strategic autonomy.

Read the issue brief (in French) here

China’s policy on strategic materials – impact on the batteries ecosystem and industry recommendations

By Xieshu Wang and Joël Ruet.

Strategic materials, such as rare earth, lithium, cobalt or nickel, are indispensable inputs for green transition technologies such as wind turbines or batteries for electric vehicles. With more and more governments aiming to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and as the necessity to transition to sustainable economies is becoming more and more pressing, primary materials’ demand will rise and they are therefore considered critical inputs, or strategic materials. It is expected that consumptions of strategic metals will increase from 7 to 19 billion tons per year, inducing serious tensions on the supply side. Cobalt is one of these metals used as an input in the magnets of wind turbines, and for the production of the cathodes of lithium-ion and nickel metal hybride batteries.

As China quickly understood the importance of the metal for future strategic technologies, it positioned itself early on the cobalt value chain and has therefore been able to control a significant part of the chain, mostly by controlling a large portion of the DRC’s cobalt ressources.

This document provides an analysis of China’s materials strategy, the way it has managed to gain a privileged position on the value chain,  as well as an analysis of the key private actors that are major players on the cobalt value chain.

Industry recommendations : Industry Recommendations – China’s key materials strategy

Analytical report : Analytical Report – China’s key materials strategy

Policy Brief – Hydrogen, a new commodity, a ‘magic’ energy carrier, or a prescriber of demanding public policies?

By Antoine Goutaland and Joël Ruet

“Hydrogen” is seeing its industrial and energy uses differ while its synthesis processes abound. But in reality, there are hydrogens whose promoters constitute a heterogeneous club with more or less convergent interests, present at different geographical, sectoral and temporal levels. A unified and stabilised ecosystem does not exist at this stage, and due to the characteristics of the molecule, we defend that this unique and global ecosystem will not be emerge.

Green hydrogen remains a decisive tool for the energy transition. It has the capacity to better store, use, and valorise renewables, and, more generally, offers an additional flexibility option to the great energy systemic overhaul necessary for the ecological transition.

At present, the World Hydrogen Council has an interest in showing a united front to policy makers, in order to broaden the base of what has not, so far, really been a “sector”. But behind this homogeneous ‘narrative’, industrial and political battles are being fought.

Hydrogen will contribute to the slow change in perspective of ecology: in parallel with the systemic question of transitions and trajectories, there will be a return, not of the micro-economic question (price formation on markets), but rather of the macro-economic policy of natural resources, an all-encompassing problem, going from a national accounting of resources to a geostrategy of resources.

Read the Full Brief (in French): 2021-07-07-PB_Hydrogene

 

Key points

  • Hydrogen is not a commodity and will probably not become one. However, this by-product can play a key role in the decarbonization of certain heavy industries or energy uses.
  • Hydrogen is not oil, therefore the previous economic model of this sector is not necessarily adapted to hydrogen. It is consequently necessary to question the assumptions and cognitive habits acquired, as well as to objectively analyse the accelerators at hand, and in particular the territories, that are determining factors.
  • Hydrogen opens the Pandora’s box of the industrial economy: are forced technological oligopolies coming? Will they overlap or will they transcend geopolitical competition? Will certain coal basins impose themselves by a sort of return of history? Will industrial parks turn demand to their advantage?
  • The electrification of the world, mobilizing hydrogen, and associated with “natural” uses of hydrogen where electrification is not relevant, is compatible with an explosion of energy transformations, alongside a decrease in CO2 emi

Tribune: The Winners and Losers of the Australian-China Trade War

The current trade war between Australia and China has heavily impacted the position and importance of China’s global trading partners, particularly within the beef and wine industry. Whilst Australia has undoubtedly suffered, other countries such as USA and Brazil are taking this opportunity to fill in the market gap.

The Bridge Tank president Joël Ruet explores the current state of trade and potential new Chinese partnerships incurred by this conflict in his latest article published on the Diplomatic Courrier. Read here  

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